Hawaii Isles Seek World Heritage Status

Hawai'i, the fiftieth state, has a storied juxtaposition of politics with scenery befitting paradise found.  Grover Cleveland's American business interests and political plotters engineered a faux crisis to rip the reigns of power away from Queen Liliʻuokalani late in the nineteenth century. The American Florentine style of the Iolani Palace is one of its unique charms along with the first World Heritage Site in the islands, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The new president of the United States was born in Hawaii.  The current governor of the state is a republican along with the outgoing president of the United States. The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument received President George W. Bush ministrations to set it up as a UNESCO WHS alongside the recently refurbished visitor's museum of Mount Vernon on the mainland, in Virginia.  Bush created the monument of islands and waters in Northwestern Hawaii in 2006.  A decade and a half has elapsed since the last US offering to get on the prestigious list.  Now the pristine Pacific Marine Park along with the Mariana Trench and the Rose Atoll near American Samoa spread out for 50 nautical miles in each direction.
Native Hawaiian fisherman William Aila said the UNESCO designation for the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument has both natural history and cultural value. The designation would "put it on a much higher pedestal in terms of importance to the world." (James Maragos, U.S.. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE)
The Monument and the miles of Pacific Ocean it covers would be a first marine entrant for the coveted status.  The ecosystems and range of marine life encompasses more than 7,000 different species, the largest albatross colony on the planet and the 23 endangered or threatened species including the habitats of the monk seal and green turtles are markers enhancing the application.  The entire process takes eighteen months seeping one of the rare good tokens of Bush environmental legacy well into a President Obama's first term. Hawaii is currently suffering a steep decline in tourism which could also be helped and hurt with a WHS moniker in rare areas where 14 million birds call home.  The unspoiled beauty is what makes it so valuable now as the new park legally bans commercial fishing and mining in the exclusive economic zone.
Papahanaumokuakea is being nominated as a “mixed” site (for both its natural and cultural resource values) because of its unique geology, ecology, biology, Native Hawaiian cultural heritage, and its significance to the world.
Native Hawaiians view the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) as an integral part of the archipelago and a deeply spiritual location. 
Physical remnants of wahi kupuna (ancestral places) and oral traditions provide evidence of the various past uses of the islands and surrounding ocean by Native Hawaiians both as a home and a place of worship.
What a beautiful part of the world with a range of political viewpoints melding together to work together to garner the seal that graces less than 1000 sites on Earth.  It is truly the embodiment of the spirit of Hawai'i. 

Mahalo & Aloha.


By Maureen on 11/09/2008 04:04:00 AM

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Cuba Rescues Heritage Site Remnants

For major weather emergencies, Cuba's government mercilessly evacuates hundreds of thousands of people out of the way, under threat of guns if required. This summer,all over the island, Cuban citizens were on multiple forced migrations as hurricane after hurricane flooded the Caribbean's largest island beneath 5 story waves obliterating public housing tenements. Weather whammies came during the heaviest tourist season, inflicting greater harm on the Cuban economy. Grievously damaged are 500 year old beautiful period buildings in the Historic Center of Camagüey that make up the old district founded by Spaniards. Inland, the district forms the heart of a Cuban World Heritage Site that just received its place of honor in July of 2008.

Old Havana has a wealth of colonial architecture, historic hotels and Baroque construction beckoning beach going tourists. It was only recently that Cuba's second President Castro, Raul, made an overdue edict that Cubans could now stay at all the posh resorts and use cell phones, even though their earnings are paltry.
Fay, Gustav, and Hanna have strained resources as Ike smashed houses and businesses with the coup de gras being a watery shredding of Camaguey, their World Heritage Site since 1982.
He said: 'Havana has some of the best-maintained and impressive selections of colonial architecture in the world.
'But it also has a magnificent collection of 20th-century architecture. There were two or three architects working from the 1930s to the 1950s who would have been uttered in the same breath as Mies van der Rohe if not for the revolution. These buildings are in serious dangers from the conditions.'
Havana or La Habana is 500 kilometers away from Camagüey. Total damages are assessed at 5 billion dollars US. With a population of 11,000,000m nore than 10% are struggling to find the basic necessities in life amidst the rubble. The crumbled like brown sugar pieces of an inland cultural town will plummet down the priority list for now. Cuba's world class beaches and resorts are reopening as quickly as possible to protect tourism as high winds and monster rain took a bigger bite out of agriculture.
In Camaguey, the roof of the historic Teatro Principal was blown away and several other older structures suffered damage or collapsed altogether. The rivers Hatibonico and Tinima, which cross the city,overflowed and flooded nearby neighborhoods. Trees were uprooted by the strong winds and electrical cables are down everywhere. As of this writing, most of the city is still without electricity.
The amount of destruction and misery is prompting calls from the well of Cuban writers and artists to the US to ease sanctions to make a full recovery possible. UNICEF is rushing to the 2.5 million people in dire straits in the latest hurricane's wake.

London Piers Fast Going Up in Smoke

By Maureen on 9/09/2008 05:34:00 AM

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A hundred years of history alongside the water as Fleetwood Pier turned into a pile of smoldering, sodden ashes. Recently, London is putting out pier fires all too often. The latest wooden pier Fleetwood, was a shuttered landmark last year and a beacon to homeless seeking shelter. What is interesting is though the dilapidated pier is immediately recognizable, the fire burned from front to back leaving homes onshore safe. It was a historic eyesore, yet completely part of the landscape through the twentieth century where the London pier was a crown jewel of the community until Blackpool upstaged it with flashier tourist trappings and bigger name stars with local real estate interests.
Funny how a piece of history burns up in a blaze of flaming toothpick glory requiring over 90 firefighters, untold liters of water and in full view of all of its residents while wringing their hands ensues a dawning realization that it was something of the resort community's heritage to preserve. Nevermind, local teens trashed it in recent times and less fortunate people used it as a rough hotel to get out of the elements. What was the cost of the all out firefighting effort versus preservation of the pier, who knows, as Lancashire went into a deep decline with the increased scarcity of fish off its shores. Eighteen months ago, the pier had been up for auction for a million pounds with helium hopes of enticing real estate developers to put pricey homes on the docks. Now its all part of a police investigation into the fire's cause.
Built in 1906, Fleetwood Pier was the last such structure to arise out of the 'golden age' of pier building between 1860 - 1910.
With a promenade deck, a jetty stretching 600 foot (182 metres) and an
oriental-style pavilion, the pier was opened to the public in 1911.

A major fire gutted the structure in 1952, which was rebuilt a year later and continued to generate profit throughout the declining years of the seaside resort.
Another pier of historical value had a fiery send up within the last six weeks. Nothing but rubble was left of the prize winning 104 year old Weston-super-Mare's pavilion. It was privately held though a known grade II listed building on the English heritage list,cementing its merit as a national landmark. It is not everywhere in the world one finds donkeys on the beach. That followed the devastating loss of cultural parts of Camden Canal Market on Chalk Farm Road where the pre-hip shop in February 2008. One too many suspicious fires of landmarks...

Iraq's Fabled Marshlands Seek WHS Status

By Maureen on 9/07/2008 04:34:00 PM

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An Iraq tour package may not have many takers right now for the Fertile Crescent. But Iraqis and other partners are repairing the ancient marshlands devastated by a destructive Saddam and a never ending US military occupation. Many Marsh Arabs believe Iraq's marshes and wetlands were the designer set for the original Garden of Eden. The United Nations has been on site for four years restoring the militarized damage from a lackluster reconstruction, trying to regain their ecosystem and the culture of the indigenous Iraqis and encouragement for creating the biodiversity of the past. It has gone so swimmingly with a 58% restoration that a petition is being drafted by United Nations Environment Program to seek World Heritage Site status over the next two years.

The Iraqi Environment Minister Narmin Othman welcomed the plans.

She said the marshlands and centuries-old culture of the Marsh Arabs had been in danger of disappearing in an ecological and human tragedy.

The Arabs of the Marshland, receive the run off and waters of the Tigris & Euphrates along the once volatile border near Iran. That can be iffy as the The rivers are filthy from lack of sanitation, filled with bodies of the missing and a long occupancy by the US military upriver. Their Islamic faith practices mirrored Saddam's enemies he was fighting the long war with causing his maniacal order to drain the area and damn the consequences both great and small. Slaves and servants had long run away t this area to hide from despotic rules and occupiers. Farming & agriculture suffered, especially rice as a drought doubled the misery. Crops, cattle and herds of buffalo live amongst the wetlands. Marshlands of Mesopotamia are rich with history in the houses made of reeds, blood feuds and Ezra's Tomb which sometimes takes the place of a house of worship.

Iraq's retention of cultural artifacts came into question during the aftermath of the initial invasion of Iraq with lawlessness and the overt looting Baghdad's museums and other cultural sites. It is now taking an international effort to restore the marshes in the wake of the Iraq Iran war that obsessed Saddam to crazily drain the area, killing the marshes and wrecking a Shiite way of life that existed for centuries. Japan funded a good portion of the last four years with Italy agreeing to pick up the cost of the preparation for submission to UNESCO for the coveted site status.

2003 Marsh view Army Corps of Engineers

Ancient Golden Wreath Found in Copper Pot in Greece

A large ancient copper pot filled with dirty water and human bones contained a wreath of gold made in the time of Alexander the Great. The spectacular was found on a dig by a freshman worker. Greece, with its blindingly white buildings, rocky cliffs, sparkly Aegean seas is without peer the cultural birthplace of western civilization. Now, it has added another fantastic find to its immense collection of archaeological and anthropological puzzle pieces detailing life from more than two thousand years ago. Somebody robbed a fresh grave of one of noble or royal lineage after the burial, hiding the wreath in the middle of the bustling Aigai market with human bones in the pot with all the pieces dating back to the audacious empire building period of Macedonian King Phillip II, Alexander the Great's father's murder by stabbing from his aggrieved bodyguard at the age of 46. The Age of Aristotle. (AP Photo/Aristotle University)

"This happened quite soon after the original burial; it's not that a grave robber took it centuries later and hid it with the intention of coming back," excavator Chryssoula Saatsoglou-Paliadeli told TheAssociated Press. "It probably belonged to a high-ranking person."  
The "impressively large" copper vessel contained a cylindrical golden jar with a lid, with the gold wreath of oak leaves and the bones inside.
"The young workman who saw it was astounded and shouted 'land mine!'" the university statement said.
Saatsoglou-Paliadeli, a professor of archaeology at the university, said the find probably dates to the 4th century B.C., during which Philip and Alexander reigned.
The Archaeological Site of Aigai (or Verdina) continues to cement why it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in the 20th session of the committee in 1996. The northern city of Verdina came into existence in 1922 with a mix of cultural heritages from Greek serf descendants, Bulgaria and Asia Minor. More than fifty years before the hills excited a cadre of archaeologists that royal tombs and burial mounds of the nobility were there. So many munificent artifacts including the tumulus, were found, they built a museum as part of a showcase and conservation effort in 1993. Alexander the Great's son's tomb was found untouched just like his grandfathers. All the found royal or minor nobility's treasures are part of the museum's exhibits.

Greece continues to unearth pieces of the past as the very ground changed from fires, seismic activity and the amount of people gives up its buried treasures. One of the big archaeological quests is discovering the final resting place of Alexander the Great. In Vergina in 1977, a royal cemetery had gold and silver trinkets, elaborate wreaths and other precious tokens such as The Golden Larnax, found alongside the remains of Phillip II. Those finds now reside in the Museum of Vergina augmented by the chronicler and critic of Philip's life, the orator Demosthenes.

A trip to Greece is filled with mind-bending ways to spend the time either in the ancient past or the modern wonders. For certain hotels one had to take a donkey up to enter as the narrow streets were made thousands of years ago. Yet, the marketplaces of Greece thrive into today. the people are clothed a bit differently but the activities remain the same, fresh food and fruits for travelers, a bit of gossip and a sense of community. Beneath all of that thousands of years in the past, somebody moved a body and wreath and buried it in the vessels of the day to be found in today's world.

market in Crete

Mont Blanc Beautiful Scenery & Deadly Avalanches

By Maureen on 8/24/2008 10:15:00 AM

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La Dame Blanche belts out a siren song, luring top skiers and avid hikers in all seasons. Near Chamonix, France, ten were crushed to their deaths today buried beneath snow and boulders of ice in another massive summer avalanche ,while 8 others survived with two still missing and buried. Since 1 July, a climbing toll of twenty died in a summer season rife with peril on Mont Blanc. The Alps are suffering from declining snowfalls and mushier snowpacks setting up perfect conditions for a raging wind to push massive amounts of snow and glacial ice off the mountaintops. Ravages of global warming and climate change enhance the risks of tangling with Mont Blanc. Ski tourists follow the best powder. Mont Blanc with the highest elevation in western Europe, almost 16,000 feet or 4,811 meters, remains an irresistible challenge whether its summer or winter.

They were among a party of climbers who were hit by a wall of snow 200m
(600ft) long and about 45m wide while roped together on Mont-Blanc du

The avalanche is believed to have happened at about 0300 (0100 GMT)
after a large block of glacier ice broke off higher up the mountain.
The group of climbers had been bivouaced on the slope below.
Avalanches are majestic to watch. In the Alps, summer is a season for deadly avalanches. Seasoned people arm themselves with all types of devices like EPIRB or Personal Locating Beacons with GPS to get located quickly by dogs or authorities. But so many times they are merely there to locate the remains when avalanches make areas impassable or threaten further slides, endangering rescuers. On the European table 2 or small avalanches lists death as one of the range of outcomes in an unstable area.

A climb to Mont Blanc du Tacul, part of the Mont Blanc massif, is done in well equipped stages. Both the Italians and the French have well traveled, for a glacier mountain, historic routes to follow across the mountain range. Passes are described as snow in the upper elevations or bridle path and road at the more modest or lower stages. There is always a veritable danger of avalanches as wind conditions shift and temperatures change. Reaching the summit where the Janssen Observatory once stood, is considered a pinnacle of the trip. Proposed as a World Heritage Site because its deemed where mountaineering originated with the official ascent of Jacques Balmat and Dr. Michel Paccard in 1786 would require Italy, France and Switzerland to make a joint application for the protection the listing would offer. Conserving the mountain range has more of a sense of urgency as glacier melts and increased tourist visits to the area are altering its ecosystem and the mountains features.